Re: Documentation Quality Metrics

Subject: Re: Documentation Quality Metrics
From: Goober <techcommgoober -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2002 16:59:32 -0700 (PDT)

Doc quality metrics, huh?

--- write now <writenow -at- toast -dot- com> wrote:
> The powers that be have determined that we will now
> provide quality metrics every month. I've read over
> several past threads and searched the Web, but
> didn't find exactly what I'm looking for. Everything
> posted seems to concentrate on the postive and
> negative aspects of metrics, where I'm looking for
> specific measurements.
> If your group does quality metrics, what exactly do
> you measure? I'm trying to find some relatively
> significant measurements that won't take me a month
> to compile.

Well, metrics alone implies that you tract the use of
and feedback from your documentation. If you're not
doing that, you'd better start, otherwise you'll have
very little metrics with which to measure (well,
worthwhile metrics, anyway). Here are some ideas,
which can be combined:

Idea #1: Guinnea Pigs

Grab a handful of customers (some old timers, some
more recent customers, and some brand new customers)
and flat out ask them if they'd be willing to provide
you feedback on documentation. See if you can get
Sales to cut them a deal for their participation, or
see if you can get them some kind of reduced support
cost. Have them provide you with feedback every two
weeks (but leave it flexible so they can submit it
whenever inspiration strikes) via a form with plenty
of "spill your brain on paper" areas. You can also
send them updates of the docs as you make the changes,
so they can not only see if the rewrite helps more,
but to give them that extra incentive to keep giving
you feedback (one hand washes the other type of

Idea #2: The Lottery

Include feedback forms in the back of every manual, as
well as in every electronic doc deliverable. Include a
generic Doc email address (your MIS/IT folks can set
this up for you very easily) that goes to you or the
doc manager, and a fax number, so they can submit at
their leisure.

Idea #3: The Subversive

OK, so I play Cosmic Encounter. *vbg* But if you serve
your documentation over the Web, include simple
graphics at the top and bottom of each topic saying
"Was this information helpful?" with Yes and No
buttons (no other buttons). The trick is to not make
them jump through hoops. Give them a simple choice of
yes or no, and have that info stored in a log on the
server. Harvest the log once a week, collect the yes
and no answers, and then visit the topics responded to
for what might be good or bad. See your web designer
for info on how to hook this up. (There used to be a
company that did this as a 3rd party service/product,
but I can't think of their name and had no luck with a
web search for it - granted I devoted about 90 seconds
to the search effort).

Idea #4: Basic Project Tracking

If you can't engage your users in providing metrics,
do it yourself. Review your documentation, and have
others review it. If your QA or Support groups use a
trouble ticket system, have them add Doc fields, and
then have people file bugs against the documentation.
You can then measyre the rate of found bugs and the
rate of fixed bugs. You can also track number of new
topics added, and then measure the bug to fixed ratio
against them as well.

Idea #5: Take Freakin' Notes

Basically, you want to document your work. Keep a
running list of the tasks you're performing, and
provide summaries for those tasks. Compile the lists
every week, and then use them as a basis for a monthly
quality report.


If I think of anything more, I'll post it.

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Documentation Quality Metrics: From: write now

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